Christiane Amanpour and the Institutionalisation of media bias

May 19, 2023 by Jonathan S. Tobin -
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At what point do we just shrug and no longer bother to even complain about a biased press?

Jonathan S. Tobin/JNS

A lot of people have already reached that point with respect to much of the corporate media when it comes to their coverage of Israel.

In a long line of egregious examples of such slanted reportage and commentary from someone with a record of many past such transgressions, perhaps CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s recent comment about the murder of the Dee family stands out.

Amanpour is the chief anchor of CNN International, as well as the host of PBS’s “Amanpour & Company.” As such, she has a singular perch that, despite the declining influence of both networks, gives her enormous influence not just in the United States but globally. And this standing is matched by her self-regard as an icon of contemporary journalism that rises above the mundane in a profession where very few of those who have the same kind of huge platforms as her even bother to pretend not to be partisan hacks.

Indeed, pinned to the top of her Twitter account is a video of her exploits as a war correspondent and an interviewer of the high and mighty, introduced with the phrase “truthful, not neutral,” in which she presents herself as being uniquely trustworthy and a partisan for honesty. But a more frank characterisation of her career would be one that would note that her biases are such that truth is the last thing viewers should expect from her reports and commentary.

Nothing better exemplifies this than her comments uttered live on the air on May 11 about the terrorist attack on the British-Israeli Dee family, in which a mother and two of her daughters were murdered while driving through the Jordan Valley on a family trip. The three women—48-year-old Lucy Dee and her daughters, 20-year-old Maia and 15-year-old Rina—were killed when Palestinian terrorists shot more than two dozen bullets at their car, forcing it off the road and then aimed at them at short range.

But according to Amanpour, the three “died in a shootout.”

A week has gone by, and despite repeated complaints by the media monitoring organisation Honest Reporting, no retraction or apology has been forthcoming, either from the network or Amanpour.

This was, of course, no mere slip of the tongue.

Amanpour has always been at pains to portray Israelis as the aggressors and Palestinians as the victims in their conflict. This goes beyond the routine distortions of language that are routine in the corporate press in which terrorists are characterised as “militants” or “activists.” The Dees were civilians targeted by murderers for slaughter. But since they hold Israeli passports, Amanpour instinctively spoke of their deaths as having been somehow their fault since they have committed the unpardonable sins of both having moved to the land of Israel from Britain and exercising their right to live there.

Nor was it an accident that she used the word “shootout.”

Earlier this month, on “World Press Freedom Day,” Amanpour used her bully pulpit to remember Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Abu Akleh died when she strayed into the middle of an actual shootout in which Palestinian gunmen were firing on Israel Defense Forces troops who were seeking to apprehend and shut down a terrorist cell in Jenin.

Sadly, a lot of journalists die while covering combat situations. In the last 15 months, for example, at least 17 civilian journalists have been killed while covering the war in Ukraine. These deaths are mourned by their colleagues and families and are usually quickly forgotten by the public. It is widely understood that being a member of the press provides no defence against bullets and bombs in a war. Anyone who, no matter their purpose, goes into a zone where shooting is going on runs the risk that they will find themselves in the line of fire from one or both sides engaged in active military operations.

But almost alone of all the journalists who have died in recent years, Abu Akleh’s death has become a cause célèbre. The reason is obvious. As a Palestinian, she is—in the worldview of people like Amanpour—a victim, no matter what she does. And if there are Israelis present, they must be the victimisers. Her death was immediately labelled a murder committed by the IDF, by the Palestinians and their international press cheerleaders like Amanpour.

There is no evidence that Israeli forces specifically targeted Abu Akleh. But predictably, Amanpour used World Press Freedom Day as an excuse for Israel-bashing. Rather than characterising the circumstances surrounding her demise by actually calling it a shootout between Israelis and Palestinians into which had wandered, Amanpour used her program to smear the IDF.

After a career of similar incidents with respect to Israel, even a belated apology wouldn’t suffice to make up for her consistent slanting of reports and interviews in order to characterize the conflict falsely.

But the problem here goes deeper than just one journalist’s bias.

In the early days of Amanpour’s long career, few, if any, journalists openly boasted of their partisanship in the way that she now does. That changed in the wake of the rise of former President Donald Trump and the Black Lives Matter summer of 2020 in which a press corps that everyone knew was overwhelmingly liberal shucked off any pretence that they were not partisans.

That made itself felt in the coverage of the 2016 presidential election and subsequent promotion of the Russia collusion hoax that dogged Trump during his first three years in office. It was shown in the willingness of almost every mainstream outlet—with the active cooperation of Big Tech companies and social media platforms—to shut down coverage of the New York Post’s scoop about Hunter Biden’s laptop and its damning evidence about the corrupt business dealings of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s family in the waning days of that campaign.

And, most recently, it was manifest in the coverage of the report by special counsel John Durham about the origins of the Russia collusion hoax by corporate outlets like CNN and The New York Times, in which they ignored the findings that the entire investigation was the work of the Hillary Clinton campaign and then initiated by the FBI without any actual evidence.

Of course, bias exists on the right, too. But the monolithic nature of so much of the mainstream media makes it particularly problematic.

We are now at the point where anyone who gets their news solely from those supposedly reliable sources, like CNN and the Times, are among the least informed people on the planet. That is nothing less than a tragedy since democracy is imperiled if there isn’t a mainstream press that can be relied upon to at least try to tell the truth.

Anti-Israel media bias was always terrible, but it was long thought of as an aberration caused by particular factors, such as ignorance of the history of the Middle East conflict by editors and reporters, as well as the failure of the Jewish state to make its case in an easily digested and compelling manner.

We are now at the point when the sort of bias exhibited by the likes of Amanpour against Israel is routine in just about everything that is produced by corporate liberal outlets. Biased journalism has become not so much a lamentable exception to the rule as it has been institutionalised.

Israel is particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon, and the consequences are deeply troubling. The unfair treatment of the Jewish state, such as that committed by Amanpour, is a factor in the rising tide of antisemitism that masquerades as mere criticism of Israel. The fact that such lies and distortions are now routine occurrences in the mainstream press is a symptom of a sickness in journalism that goes beyond the way her conduct is abetting Jew hatred.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.


One Response to “Christiane Amanpour and the Institutionalisation of media bias”
  1. john nemesh says:

    Always resist.
    never give in.
    The enemy doesn’t rest.
    Nor must we.

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